Now that 2019 is in our rear view mirror and I've tallied up all the numbers, here is my 2019 year in review.
This is also the month I celebrate 15 years of being a full time freelancer. I'm proud to say that 2019 was my best freelancing year ever.
2019 Income: $135,288
(This is gross, not net. Deductions and taxes will drop that down quite a bit, but I won't know the net number until I do my taxes.)
Income Break Down:
B2B Publications: 25%
Research Institutions/Hospitals: 19%
Consumer Publications: 18%
Association Publications: 9%
Custom Content: 2%
I also made you a pie chart:
I was a bit surprised that consumer publications came in fourth, though I shouldn't be. I have a rock solid client in that area, but I don't pitch much new work in this realm anymore. Also if you're looking at that chart and worried I'm crossing ethics boundaries, know this: almost all of my consumer-facing writing is about running. I don't write for running brands, and the university, research institution and hospital work is in completely different arenas (most of it is writing about basic research on the cellular, atomic and sub-atomic level. Yes, I am smart!) I never use those clients for my running work. I don't mess around with that stuff.
Prefer line graphs? Here's my income over time:
My 2019 isn't just the work of one year. I started freelancing while in college, and while I only have numbers going back to my second full time freelance year (sorry 2005, I don't know where you went), it's all a cumulation.
See that dip in 2017? My big success this year started when I realized my business was in trouble, and I started marketing the heck out of myself. In 2018, I sent more than 500 letters of introduction (LOIs). More than 500! For 2019, 19 clients came from LOIs. Not all of them became regular, anchor clients (a few I wrote for once and then never again), but two did. They became my third and fourth most profitable clients of 2019, bringing in over $16,000 and $10,000 for 2019, respectfully.
I'm not sharing specific numbers from specific clients, but I can say no one company or entity or organization made up more than 20% of my income. So if I lost one client, maybe even lost two, I could still scrape over that $100,000 mark (and insulate myself a bit from changes in an industry always in flux).
I mentioned before that I was thinking about writing freelance white paper. I thought I'd work on it here and there maybe have it done this spring. Over the break, I wrote 10,000 words in three days. Once I landed on the format, I couldn't stop writing. Instead of putting together a general piece on what's worked for me, instead I tell a bit about how I got into freelancing, and outline how I got my top four clients of 2019. The four of them wrap up all of the marketing and business tactics that have worked for me for 15 years.
The point of the white paper is not really about becoming a $130,000 freelancer or a $100,000 freelancer or even a $30,000 freelancer. It's about setting goals and earning the income you want so you can live the lifestyle you want to lead. I worked about 30 hours a week this year, and took 10 weeks of vacation, including a full month off to drive to and from California. It is the kind of work life balance that, as a kid writing in her journal that she didn't want to work in an office, I could only dream of.
So that white paper *is* coming, but it needs to be edited and designed and formatted (for which I am hiring – and paying – people). I'm hoping to have it ready mid-February, at the latest. Stay tuned to the newsletter for that announcement (and probably a discount code!)
In the meantime: I have called Jennifer Goforth Gregory my freelancing angel and for good reason: her guidance helped me save my business (she's the reason I sent those 500+ LOIs in 2018). Monday is the kick off for her fifth annual marketing challenge. I did it last year, and I'll be starting a fresh sheet to tally up points. The winner gets an Amazon gift card (though we're all winners for getting work for putting in a new marketing effort).
Until next time!
Jen A. Miller